Instructors and professors who are teaching students in a university lecture hall or a college classroom need to do more than just provide students with the facts and figures to know for a particular subject. Rather, their role is to instill in their students an ability to learn the material on their own and remain self-motivated throughout the rest of their college careers.
Many educational professionals who work in higher education apply the theory of constructive alignment to their course outlines. This theory allows instructors to create course designs that encourage the students to reach the desired learning outcome while completing interconnected activities. It’s an effective course design theory that, when executed properly, allows learners of all types and backgrounds to be successful in the course.
What is Constructive Alignment?
According to a study completed by John Biggs and published in The Higher Education Academy, constructive alignment is actually a two-part theory for educational professionals to apply within their own classrooms. The study, titled “Aligning Teaching for Constructing Learning,” aims to explain the importance of creating a learning environment that allows the learner to construct their own meaning and conclusion from the coursework. Ideally, the coursework is aligned and interconnected, ultimately giving all students within the classroom the opportunity to reach the same conclusion and outcome upon completing the course.
The two steps of the constructive alignment theory, as defined by Biggs, are:
- Constructive aspect of the theory — in the constructive portion of constructive alignment, educators in the collegiate level are encouraged to create learning activities that allow students to construct meaning. This means that the teacher must go beyond listing facts and forcing students to memorize those facts. Rather, the instructor must provide the learner with an opportunity to assess the question, determine an outcome and come to a conclusion on their own.
- Alignment aspect of the theory — the alignment aspect of constructive alignment requires the instructor to pull together all learning opportunities so that they are in continuation with one another. Ultimately, the course should be aligned so that the learner cannot complete it without coming to the desired conclusion and outcome at the end of the experience.
A course that is designed using constructive alignment not only allows the student to master the topic that is being addressed but it also allows them to understand it on a deeper level. In order to create a course using the constructive alignment theory, an educator must identify the intended learning outcomes, select activities that will allow students to reach those outcomes, assess the results of the activities and assignments to verify that the intended outcomes are being reached, and provide the student with a final grade for the course.
While the constructive alignment theory provides instructors with a specific set of components that must be adhered to during the course design process, it is not restrictive in the sense that it can be applied to many different types of courses and in a variety of learning environments. An instructor teaching a large lecture class on a scientific topic can use constructive alignment course design just as well as a literary professor who is working with an intimate group of students in a smaller classroom setting.
What are the Benefits of Constructive Alignment Course Design in a Collegiate Setting?
In a way, constructive alignment provides instructors with a structured option for creating a course design that will be both effective and fluid. It offers an outline to professors and instructors who wish to apply this theory within their own classroom, without forcing them to stick to a rigid curriculum for their course. There is still enough room for freedom of thought and expression within the course design, and it can be utilized in nearly every subject matter or course.